John Drake

John Drake

Distinguished Research Professor | personal web page | CV | Google Scholar ORCID ID

John M. Drake is Professor of Ecology at the University of Georgia. His research seeks to understand the dynamics of biological populations and epidemics, focusing on how to bring experimental and observational data together with mathematical theory. Biological phenomena of interest include extinction, fluctuations in variable environments, the spatial distribution of populations (niche theory), Allee effects, demographic stochasticity, spatial spread, and near-critical dynamics. Practical applications of this work include decision support for managing invasive species, mapping the spread of infectious diseases, and forecasting disease emergence. Current projects concern the dynamics of Ebola virus in West Africa, spread of White-nose Syndrome in bats, and the development of a new theory for early warning systems of emerging infectious diseases. Dr. Drake has an interest in history and philosophy of modern (twentieth century) biology. Dr. Drake received his PhD from the University of Notre Dame in 2004 and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California from 2004-2006. He has been at the University of Georgia since 2006. He was Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University in 2012.


  • ECOL 8310 Population and Evolutionary Ecology (Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2013)
  • ECOL 4000/6000 Population and Community Ecology (Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017)
  • ECOL 8520 Fundamentals of Disease Biology II (Spring 2017)
  • ECOL 8910 Multi-scale Modeling (Spring 2017)
  • ECOL 8910 Ecological Niche Theory and Species Distribution Modeling (Spring 2016)
  • ECOL 8910 Introduction to Computational Statistics (Spring 2015)
  • ECOL 8910 Quantifying Biodiversity (Spring 2014)
  • ECOL 8910 Nonlinear Time Series Analysis (Spring 2011)
  • ECOL 8910 Time Series Analysis (Fall 2010)
  • ECOL 8910 Meta-analysis (Spring 2010)
  • ECOL 8990 Data Visualization (Fall 2008)
  • ECOL 8990 Introduction to Applied Statistics (Fall 2007)
  • ECOL 4950 Senior Seminar (Fall 2006, Spring 2013)
  • FYOS 1001 First Year Odyssey Seminar (Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2016, Spring 2017)


  • Odum School of Ecology (2006-present)
  • Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute (2008-present)
  • Faculty of Infectious Disease (2008-present)


Drew profile 180_shadowDrew Kramer

Associate Research Scientist



Research Interests:  I study the dynamics of extinction, invasion and species coexistence. These three processes are closely linked: extinction is the only alternative to both invasion (in population
dynamics) and coexistence (in community ecology). A better understanding of these fundamental processes is key to advancing theory in population and community ecology and essential for solving applied problems in conservation and natural resource management. My work uses mathematical and simulation models, lab and field experiments and long-term monitoring to quantify species recovery following extirpation, conduct risk analysis for invasive species, and evaluate mechanisms that facilitate coexistence of competitors.

I inform my research program by working in a diverse set of systems (e.g. zooplankton communities, fungal diseases of wildlife, invasive species); although my primary focus is freshwater ecosystems. I address questions about the dynamics of small populations and the coexistence of competing species in freshwater zooplankton communities, including temporary wetlands at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and alpine lakes in the Sierra Nevada. By testing and developing species distribution models I aim to provide better forecasts of habitat suitability for aquatic invasive species and emerging diseases. I use network models to study epidemic spread at the regional and continental scale, gaining better understanding of important emerging diseases like white-nose syndrome in North American bats.


JP_medshadow2J.P. Schmidt

Associate Research Scientist


Research Interests:

My work is applied and unified topically in having a spatial/landscape perspective, a vegetation focus, or relying on computational approaches. My interests range from vegetation (plant population and community ecology), to soils and ecosystem processes and the nexus of ecology and economics. I come to ecology as a botanist/naturalist and have extensive field experience conducting vegetation sampling and rare plant surveys. As a doctoral research project, I developed a spatially explicit individual-based model of the population biology of an endemic shrub adapted to fire-prone sandhill habitats to guide controlled burning by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

In recent work, I developed models to identify traits associated with invasive and rare plant species using machine learning approaches.

Current projects include ecosystem service valuation on the Georgia coast, and developing soil carbon monitoring methods.

Remote sensing and GIS are integral to much of my research including ecosystem service valuation, and past projects funded by National Park Service, and Georgia GAP (mapping landuse/landcover and major vegetation communities for the entire state in order to model vertebrate habitat).


elijah2_smallElijah Carter

Postdoctoral Associate


Research Interests: Elijah is interested in education research in the biological sciences. His previous work has focused on how different types of demographic factors and educational interventions affect students’ attitudes toward topics such as evolution, global climate change, and genetically modified organisms.

Current project: Elijah is working as the internal evaluator for the IDEAS NRT program with the goal of assessing alignment of goals and expectations of the program among students, faculty, and administrators. He is also helping to develop and implement learning objectives for the courses associated with the program and providing input on evidence-based pedagogy.


  odea_shadowEamon O’Dea

  Postdoctoral Associate


The main theme of my research has been the development of methods to identify and estimate parameters for models of disease contact and    transmission. My work has shown that, by pooling information from many outbreaks, transmission rates can be much more accurately estimated and associated with predictive variables. I have also developed a method to estimate the rates at which HIV-risk relationships form and break from a complex survey data set. My work has also demonstrated how contact heteorgeneity may influence estimates of pathogen incidence based on molecular data, and a related project that develops methods for regression modeling of pathogen migration rates based on location-tagged sequences is in progress. In some work on identification of models for the spread of an emerging porcine disease I learned about critical slowing down, and I’m looking forward to exploring the practical implications of such phenomena for surveillance.


evans_sm_shadowMichelle Evans

PhD Student

Co-advised with Dr. Courtney Murdock (lab webpage)



Research Interests: I am interested in the effects of land-use change on vector-borne disease dynamics and ecology. Specifically, my research is focused on how mosquito ecology shifts across an urban landscape to influence human risk of mosquito-borne disease (e.g dengue and Zika).  As a student in the Integrative Conservation and Ecology program (link:, I approach this problem from an interdisciplinary perspective, incorporating the social, ecological, and political complexities characteristic of urban systems. My current research focuses on the ‘carry-over effects’ of mosquito larval habitat on adult Aedes albopictus competence to transmit dengue.


 Reni180_shadowReni Kaul

PhD Student


Research Interests: I am generally interested in microbial populations and their impact on human health.  My research before starting in the Drake lab was focused on quantifying and predicting the prevalence of  Microcystis aeruginosa  populations and an associated hepatotoxin, microcystin, in fresh water systems.  This work has continued with my collaborators at MSU. We are currently exploring ecological mechanisms that control microcystin expression.
While in the Drake lab, I have worked on developing microbial systems to demonstrate and explore population extinctions due to various mechanisms including deteriorating environments, small population sizes, and experimental noise.  I look forward to future work that combines ecological principles, microbiology and human health.


 PaigeM_smPaige Miller

 PhD Student


Research interests: I am interested in using and developing methods for forecasting infectious diseases based on early warning signals and critical slowing down. I am fascinated by research on the interface of statistics and ecology. Currently, I am working on describing the reliability of various statistics in the face of data underreporting and transmission seasonality, problems that are important to consider in many ecological systems. For my PhD work, I also hope to contribute to the understanding of how much lead time, before a tipping point, may be granted by obtaining information from early warning signals. While in the Drake Lab, I look forward to synthesizing principles from ecology, epidemiology, and statistics.


robbie_smRobbie Richards

PhD Student

Co-advised with Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa (lab website)





Spencer_smSpencer Hall

Data Analyst






Annakate_smAnnakate Schatz

Data Analyst






Andrea200_shadowAndrea Silletti

Lab Manager


Research Interests:
Most of my training is as a plant ecologist, where my experience ranges from leaf-level physiology to ecosystem restoration.  Transferring these skills to a world of zooplankton and theoretical ecology has been an exciting challenge and a great opportunity to expand my ecological experiences.


 mallory_smallMallory Harris

Undergraduate Researcher

I am an undergraduate researcher majoring in Mathematics and Computational Biology. I am involved with three Drake lab projects involving the use of Early Warning Signals to forecast critical transitions in vector-borne disease systems. My work involves spatial and temporal stochastic simulations of vector-borne disease systems. I am interested in the application of mathematical and computational methods to better understand biological and epidemiological data.



jwalker_shadowJoseph Walker

Undergraduate Researcher

I am an undergraduate researcher studying at the intersection between infectious disease, statistics and public health. I am interested in using math and data to answer interesting and applicable questions about pathogens and their impact on individuals and populations.

This is my first semester with the Drake lab, and I am currently working on using machine learning techniques to analyze emerging pathogens, with the goal being to uncover what the relationship is between the features of the pathogen and its transmissibility in humans. In addition, I hope to be able to pick up new knowledge and concepts from the scientists around me.

In the future, I am interested in working in the areas of infectious disease epidemiology and global health.




 Post-docs (current position)

Graduate Students

  • Marcus Zokan (PhD, 2015)
  • Tad Dallas (PhD, 2016)
  • Sarah Bowden (PhD, 2016)

REU Students

  • Dominic Gray, Norfolk State U.  (2014)
  • Trianna Humphrey, Tugaloo College (2014)
  • Paige Miller, Gustavus Adolphus (2014)
  • Abby Smith, Carnegie Mellon U (2014)
  • Evans Lodge, Calvin College (2015)
  • Annakate Schatz, Mount Holyoke College (2015)
  • Nikki Solano, Agnes Scott College (2015)
  • Tim Wildauer, Bethany Lutheran College (2015)
  • Richard Williams, Morehouse College (2015)
  • Chevana Dorris, Jackson State Univ (2016)
  • Yaw Kumi-Ansu, Emory University (2016)
  • Lexi Lerner, Brown University (2016)
  • Sarah Rainey, Radford University (2016)

Research associates

  • Prahlad Jat
  • Gordon Akudibillah
  • Zach McElrath
  • Arash Fard
  • Brian Christian
  • Tomlin Pulliam

Visiting researchers

  • Kevin Drury
  • Eleanor Pardini
  • Elodie Vercken
  • Chris Michael
  • Dustin Tench
  • Jonathan Lillie
  • Keisha Pressley
  • Amanda Vincent


  • Danny Bruce
  • Amara Channell
  • Sarah Cressman
  • Brian Christian
  • Alicia Flowers
  • Ashley Janda
  • Kevin Knoblich
  • Katie McCurdy
  • Michael McGuirk
  • Elizabeth Miller
  • Ronke Olowojesiku
  • Tierney O’Sullivan
  • Jack Owen
  • Deeran Patel
  • Tabita Popvici
  • Giovanni Righi
  • Jeff Shaprio
  • Lindsay Shay
  • David Stoker
  • Theresa Stratmann
  • Caroline Taylor
  • Abby Wong
  • Katie Zarada